A New Jersey school teacher says she was fired for being Muslim

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

It's okay to show your high school history class a video of Nobel Laureate Malala Yusufzai if you're white, but if you're Arab and Muslim, that's apparently Not Okay.


That's one of the claims being made by a New Jersey teacher who filed a lawsuit earlier this week claiming she was fired from her job because she's a Muslim of Palestinian descent.

Sireen Hashem claimed administrators singled her out because of her religious and ethnic background during her time working as a history teacher at Hunterdon Central Regional High School in central New Jersey.


Hashem started at Hunterdon as a student teacher before being hired full-time for the start of the 2013-2014 school year. As part of her training, she observed the class of a white history teacher who screened a documentary for her students about the experiences of Malala Yusufzai. But when Hashem screened the same documentary for her class, parents complained and the head of Hunterdon's social studies department reprimanded her, according to the lawsuit.

"Defendant Zywicki told Plaintiff that she could not teach current events in the same manner as her non-Arab, non-Palestinian and non-Muslim colleagues," the lawsuit states.

This was the first of several similar incidents the lawsuit alleges. Parents would also complain about Hashem participating in an elective class discussion over the book The Lemon Tree, which tells the story of an Arab and Jewish family in the 1960s. Complaints also surfaced when she used a common class assignment asking students to compare the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attacks to abolitionist John Brown's 1859 raid on Harper's Ferry.

On top of that, a Facebook post started by a student began to circulate in the school claiming that Hashem's brother is a terrorist and that she had anti-semitic views. A local rabbi and a group of parents called for her removal.


In a series of meetings with administration, Hashem's suit states she was told not to ever talk about Islam or the Middle East in her class, and was accused of discriminating against Jewish students.

At the end of the 2014-2015 school year, Hashem's contract was not renewed.

In a statement released to NJ.com, Hunterdon Central Superintendent Cristina Steffner said she would not comment on the specifics of the suit due to the confidential nature of personnel decisions, but denied the substance of the lawsuit.


"However, I want to very clearly state that Ms. Hashem's allegations against me are untrue. I have never made a personnel decision based on any improper purpose. The statements attributed to me are factually wrong, and may even be defamatory," Steffner told NJ.com.

Some of Hashem's students, upon learning that she was not being renewed, posted their support on social media, some with the hashtag "#fightforhashem."



Hashem is seeking compensation for lost wages, mental anguish and injury, as well as damages for discrimination.

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